London’s review published on Letterboxd:
The first Act of this film is perfection. Every Samurai is unique and wildly interesting, and the character of Kikuchiyo is one of the most well structured and written characters I have seen in any action film. This facade of hyper masculinity to avoid grief and to push away trauma is incredibly well performed, and leads to some of the most emotionally moving scenes from any of the Kurosawa films I have seen.
I could talk about how great each of the characters are for quite a bit of time, and it is incredible how much character building is in the first hour and a half of this film. Not just through dialogue, but also through the words that are never said. So much is added to the character of Shichirōji for instance, just by the immediate acceptance of this extremely dangerous mission for no pay, all because he had served with Kambei before. The unspoken dialogue between those two is fantastic.
I do think that the characterization falls a bit in the second half of the film. Some of the Samurai are tossed to the side, and the battle that follows is definitely entertaining, filled with great ideas and shots, but maybe doesn't warrant an hour of screen time. I wish they had cut it down a bit and spent a little more time with Kyūzō or Heihachi.
Regardless, this film was great. Its not close to my favorite of Kurosawa's, but that doesn't mean it isn't extremely worth your time. Watch this great film.